The Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice’s Lawyers Council for Civil and Economic Rights in the Americas convenes private-practice attorneys across the Americas to support the rule of law and the critical work of civil society, and to combat corruption throughout the region. The Council consists of eighteen lawyers from the United States and thirteen Latin American countries with experience as leaders of bar associations, board members of non-governmental organizations, and as pro bono practitioners, who design and implement multilateral, region-wide initiatives to address challenges to civil and economic rights in Latin America. This initiative’s launch has been generously funded by the Ford Foundation and the Tinker Foundation.
The Lawyers Council considers the rule of law to be fundamental to a successful business and a prosperous national economy. Indeed, businesses exist only as a result of laws permitting their establishment and providing them with powers and responsibilities. Their activities flourish in states in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards.
- Anticorruption Initiative
The Council is convinced that corruption is one of the region’s most pressing challenges, given its complexity, intractability, and destructive effects on the rule of law. This initiative seeks systematically to map and guide legal efforts in Latin America to prevent and redress corruption, a widespread issue that handicaps business and society. The initiative expands on current practice by looking beyond formal measures at actual experience from the perspective of a broad range of lawyers.
- Strengthening of Judicial Independence
One of the most pressing challenges to the rule of law in Latin America is the lack of judicial independence. In some countries in the region, the judiciary is under attack by the executive branch, or laws and institutions do not allow judges to exercise their functions with independence and impartiality. Part of the weakness of the judiciary is related to the processes of the appointment of judges and magistrates, which do not favor optimal candidates and appointees.
Thus, the means of judicial appointments are fundamental to securing the rule of law. Clear and objective criteria for evaluating candidates favor experienced and competent candidates. Similarly, a transparent process open to civil society and the public discloses undue influence in the process that could affect the impartiality and independence of the judicial function.
The Lawyers Council views the appointments processes as an important indication of whether Latin American countries are adhering to the rule of law. This initiative seeks to engage with key sectors of the legal profession in countries in Latin America to asses the processes of appointment of members of the judiciary, as well as support efforts to build institutional capacity for independent courts.
- Strengthening of Civil Society
The Council seeks to identify legal impediments to operating civil society organizations independently, and free from government overreaching. These efforts are designed to rally the legal profession to strengthen the rights and resources that will allow civil society to work effectively for the common good.